Incidents

Roland Barthes, trans. from the French by Teresa Lavender Fagan, Seagull (Univ. of Chicago, dist.), $25 (184p) ISBN 978-1-906497-59-0
One of Barthes's most influential ideas is in distinguishing between texts that ask the reader to simply accept the author's words and those that involve the reader as a kind of co-author. Incidents, a new translation of personal essays originally published posthumously in 1987, falls, like all of Barthes's work, into the latter category. Three out of the four pieces are essentially journal entries—short -hand, non-linear vignettes—giving readers little choice but to insert themselves into the gaps. Even in his more scholarly work, Barthes often preferred list-like entries to conventional essays. And while the subjects here—his feelings about the landscape of his childhood, his desire for Moroccan boys, an unsatisfying social life populated by "gigolos" and intellectuals—are more personal (and more sexually explicit), the connection between the two is clear. There's pleasure in Barthes's ability to connect things that until that moment seemed separate, but the book, inflated by Bishan Samaddar's photographs, feels a bit like a vanity project. If reading is work—deep, playful, and satisfying—better to spend time with Barthes's explications of reading and writing, literature and images, or, for those who crave the personal, his fascinating Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes. Photos. (Sept. 15)
Reviewed on: 12/06/2010
Release date: 09/01/2010
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 73 pages - 978-0-520-07104-9
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